Students’ Motivation for Standardized Math Exams

Katherine E. Ryan, Allison M. Ryan, Keena Arbuthnot, Maurice Samuels

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The recent No Child Left Behind legislation has defined a vital role for large-scale assessment in determining whether students are learning. Given this increased role of standardized testing as a means of accountability, the purpose of this article is to consider how individual differences in motivational and psychological processes may contribute to performance on high-stakes math assessments. The authors consider individual differences in processes that prior research has found to be important to achievement: achievement goals, value, self-concept, self-efficacy, test anxiety, and cognitive processes. The authors present excerpts from interviews with eighth-grade test takers to illustrate these different achievement-related motivational beliefs, affect, and cognitive processing. Implications for future research studying the situational pressures involved in high-stakes assessments are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5-13
Number of pages9
JournalEducational Researcher
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2007


  • accountability
  • high-stakes testing
  • motivation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education


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